Week 40: Tensegrities

In math we find balance and equilibrium. We balance equations. We keep balance by using properties of identity (multiply by 1 or add zero), Properties of Equality (mirroring operations), and by using the many other ways to manipulate and play with structures in math.

This week’s math is about equilibrium through building tensegrities (see photo above). Buckminster Fuller coined the term “Tensegrity” by combining “tensional” and “integrity.” He described the structure as, “Islands of compression in an ocean of tension.”

For this week’s activity, grab building toys, hot glue and sticks, or straws and string to create tensegrities. Learners can work on the simple design in the photo above, or on polyhedrons, bridges, sculptures, and more. Some challenging shapes would be polyhedral structures or towers. The goal is to create a structure that uses the tension of strings and the weight of the objects in positions that reach equilibrium.

For high school or middle school students, force diagrams may be a fun activity as well. Think about the moments and forces that balance in each structure created. There is a great “Beyond the Brick” video here. For strings at angles, there are some great trigonometry applications to play with.

2 thoughts on “Week 40: Tensegrities”

  1. Maybe you don’t enjoy it being mentioned but to me it’s cool to see a lady passionate about coding, fractals and what have you as that’s in a way a bit of a rarity.

    The stuff you code is exactly the genre I want to get into yet I’m not as gifted as you are. I’m a little jealous about your math skills lol. Anyway, I really admire the stuff you create!

    1. Nick thank you. I do get embarrassed because the realm of math is so vast and I feel like a fleck. I can always send you some code to play with. I hope to get some tutorials or coding groups going too. If it helps, I started learning p5js last summer. It’s really wonderful to have a tool that allows for great visuals that’s easy to use.

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